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Ukrainian troops heading to Oklahoma for Patriot missile training

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A hundred Ukrainian soldiers are set to begin training on the Patriot missile system at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, “as soon as next week,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder confirmed Tuesday during a press briefing.

The Army selected Fort Sill over training ranges in Europe because the Patriot’s school house, which is normally a two-year training pipeline, is located at the Oklahoma post.

“Once fielded the Patriot will contribute to Ukraine’s air defense capabilities and provide another capability to Ukrainian people to defend themselves against Russia’s ongoing aerial assaults,” Ryder said.

The Pentagon announced in late 2022 that it intended to provide a single Patriot system to Ukrainian forces, as well as the required training to operate it.

The 100 troops scheduled for training at Fort Sill are roughly the number that would be assigned to a U.S. Patriot battery.

This first rotation of troops is the only one currently planned, but “we will keep the dialogue open in terms of any potential future training,” Ryder said. “But right now the focus is on training these operators to operate the system.”

The Pentagon did not announce an official timeline for the training, except to say that it will be shortened from the multiyear advanced individual training new U.S. soldiers get on the system.

The Ukrainians selected for training already have an air defense artillery background, Ryder said, and there is an emphasis on returning them to the battlefield.

“We’re not winging it in terms of the training,” Ryder said. “This will be an established curriculum to train the soldiers on the Patriot system, although expedited to ensure that they can get back to Ukraine as quickly as possible.”

Ukrainian troops have trained stateside before, including a group of 10 who learned to operate the Switchblade drone system early last year — as the Russian invasion began — during previously scheduled professional military education.

They returned home April 10.

Asked whether any other U.S.-provided systems would be best suited for training in the U.S., “As of right now, this will be the only one that I’m tracking. But of course, we’ll continue to stay flexible and do what makes the most sense and supportive,” Ryder told Military Times.

This latest group is separate from the recently announced monthly rotation of 500 Ukrainian troops to Germany, where they will receive combined-arms maneuver training. That’s also set to begin next week, Ryder said.

“Combined arms-maneuver training is a logical next step in our ongoing training efforts, which began in 2014, to build the Ukrainian armed forces’ capacity,” Ryder said Dec. 15. “While there’s an understandable focus on the equipment being provided to Ukraine, training is and has been essential to ensuring Ukraine has the skilled forces necessary to better defend themselves.”

Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.

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